Tender Loving Care

When I was discharged from the Army in 1959, I got a job for the summer at Goose Hummock Shop, a sporting goods store which overlooks the Town Cove in Orleans. Bobby Bremner worked there, too.

From time to time, when things were quiet in the store, we’d look out the back window and watch water skiers go whizzing by as they do today.

both Bobby and I became interested in learning the sport, so we engaged Roger Gill, whose father, Mert, had a pretty fast boat with all the paraphernalia for water skiing.

While one of us was learning how to get up on the skis, the other would have an eye out the back window of the shop to see how the one was doing.

Slowly, and I mean s-l-o-w-I-y, each of us was able to master getting up from a dead stop in the water, then advanced to popping off a float to a ready-standing position, then going back and forth over the wake, and, finally, being able to drop one ski and do a slalom movement.

Along the way, being competitors both, one would challenge the other to try what the one had just accomplished. After a while, we kind of ran out of new things to do, so I decided to up the ante a bit.

At the time, Goose Hummock had a fleet of rental rowboats at anchor right behind the shop. We had an old wooden tender that stayed out about fIfty yards in the water. We’d pull the tender in by a rope and use it to tow in the rental boats for customers. So, the presence of that tender caused me to wonder if it would be as easy to become airborne on water skis as it was on snow skis. I decided that it should be, so I set out to jump over that tender, right in front of the spectators peeking out the back window of the shop.

Coming helltilarup down from the head of the Cove, I swung out to the left of the wake and headed straight for that tender. I could see that I had an audience. Bending my knees in preparation, I timed the jump with perfect precision (for a snow ski jump).

I learned, at the moment the tips of my skis hit the tender, that the same rule doesn’t at all apply to water skis. My skis hit solidly against the near side of the boat. Instantly, I was in mid-air, aimed head first for the opposite side of the interior. For some athletic reason, I had sense enough to duck my right shoulder just as I made contact. The force of the crash tore off the whole far side of the boat as I finished my unathletic spill into the water, and the skis pinwheeled off my feet.

The boss, Freddie MacFarlane, good-humored as he was, admitted that he was considering getting a new tender, so he thanked me for helping him make the decision.

Sam Sherman